Analysis: Here’s one trade the Mariners could (and should) pull off right now

view original post

Baseball’s worst team, the Chicago White Sox, is here in Seattle this week, starting a four-game series Monday night at T-Mobile Park, and Mariners fans should be thrilled.

Why?

Because you get the chance to watch Luis Robert Jr. for the next four days.

You get the chance to watch one of the game’s elite center fielders and elite sluggers.

And you get to dream about what he could (and should) look like in a Mariners uniform.

The Mariners front office will be watching closely, too.

Robert is one of the premier trade chips available on the market this summer, and he’s an ideal fit for what the Mariners’ need in the middle of their lineup. He might be the ideal fit.

The White Sox, with a 17-49 record and going nowhere fast, are actively shopping Robert already, per reports.

The Mariners should have a competitive offer available to present right now, and they have the high-end prospects that could allow them to make a more competitive offer than anyone.

What’s it going to take?

It’s going to take the type of package (including No. 1 prospect Noelvi Marte, plus shortstop Edwin Arroyo, plus pitchers Levi Stoudt and Andrew Moore) the Mariners sent to Cincinnati for ace Luis Castillo in 2022.

It was a move the Mariners had to make, and it was a move that helped nudge them back into the playoffs for the first time in two decades. Then and now, the Mariners would make that trade again – 100 times out of 100.

They need to execute a similarly impactful trade this summer, and it’s going to take an uncomfortable package of prospects for Robert. A package like: catcher Harry Ford (Mariners’ No. 2 prospect, per MLB Pipeline), shortstop Felnin Celesten (No. 5) and pitcher Tyler Gough (No. 30).

Too much, you say? Too uncomfortable.

Too bad.

That’s the going rate – that’s about the right cost – for a bona-fide bat that could help the Mariners chase down their first AL West title since 2001 and close the gap on the Yankees, Orioles and Guardians in the pursuit of the American League pennant.

The Mariners have to try.

The organization showed it was serious about improving the offense when it fired first-year offensive coordinator Brant Brown on May 31. Brown probably didn’t deserve to be the fall guy for the offense’s dreadful start to the season, but the front office made its point clear – it is not messing around – and it needs to double down by acquiring the type of bat that can put this team over the top.

Maybe the Mariners, like the rest of the league, will wait out the Toronto Blue Jays to see if Vlad Guerrero Jr. or Bo Bichette become available just before the July 30 trade deadline.

Maybe the Mariners change their tune on rental players and trade for Mets first baseman Pete Alonso, a free agent at the end of the season.

Or maybe the Mariners love what they see from Robert this week and love the idea of playing him in right field, right next to his baseball doppelgänger.

Yes, Luis Robert Jr., 26, and Julio Rodriguez, 23, are practically the same player.

And what’s better than having one Julio Rodriguez on your team?

Try two.

Consider:

In 2023, Robert played in a career-high 145 games, hit 38 home runs, stole 20 bases, posted an .857 OPS and 5.0 bWAR. Among all center fielders, only Rodriguez had a higher bWAR (5.3) last season.

Here are their career numbers:

Robert: 1,569 plate appearances, 78 HR, .276/.323/.500 (.823 OPS), 47 SB, wRC+ 123, .349 wOBA, 11.9 fWAR, 13 Outs Above Average (CF).

Rodriguez: 1,557 plate appearances, 65 HR, .277/.335/.468 (.803 OPS), 76 SB, wRC+ 128, .345 wOBA, 12.2 fWAR, 12 Outs Above Average (CF).

At their best, they’re both top-20 players in baseball.

Robert is also under contract through the prime of his career, at reasonable salaries for each of the next three seasons ($15 million in 2025, and $20 million club options for 2026 and ’27). For an organization with budget limitations, that should be attractive to the Mariners, too.

Here’s the catch with Robert this week: Ignore the results.

Ignore whatever Robert does at the plate against the Mariners these next four days. The hunch here is it won’t be pretty.

Why?

Because the Mariners, if they’re wise, won’t throw Robert a single strike. They probably won’t need to. For one, there’s little protection around him in the White Sox lineup.

And like Rodriguez, Robert is an aggressive hitter – meaning he will take his hacks and he will chase at a very high rate. And like Rodriguez, Robert is loathe to walk.

The talent should be obvious, though.

There are risks in acquiring Robert, sure. There are risks with any major trade, and perhaps Robert’s injury history (he’s played in 100 games only once in his career, and missed the first two months of this season with a hip flexor strain) makes him even more of one.

There’s the risk that Celesten – or Ford or any top prospect you give up – could become a star in another uniform. And that’s an acceptable risk.

Celesten might have the highest ceiling of any prospect in the Mariners’ organization – one talent evaluator suggested he’s more talented than Rodriguez – but he’s still just 18 and has just two dozen professional games on his resume.

Celesten could be anything five years from now, which is part of what would make him an attractive lottery ticket to a team like the White Sox, and part of what makes him an acceptable trade piece for a team like the Mariners that should be in full win-now mode – a team that shouldn’t hesitate to make this kind of move now.